A former chief administrative law judge pleaded guilty in federal court Monday for conspiracy to retaliate against an employee of the Social Security Administration who provided information to federal investigators about potential corruption and fraud.
Charlie Paul Andrus, 66, of Huntington, West Virginia, pleaded guilty in federal court in Kentucky to a one-count information.
Andrus had been an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration or SSA for nearly 28 years. He heard and decided claims for disability benefits on behalf of the SSA.
In 1997, Andrus was promoted to the position of chief administrative law judge for the hearing office in Huntington.
In May 2011, federal agents went to the Huntington office as part of an investigation into allegations of potential corruption and fraud. They began gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses. The investigation focused on another administrative law judge, David Black Daugherty, and an attorney in Kentucky, Eric Christopher Conn.
The day the investigation started, the Wall Street Journal published an article critical of the Huntington hearing office.
Andrus admitted in his guilty plea Monday that the article was personally embarrassing. It cast him and the Huntington hearing office in a bad light.
Because of the article and the criminal investigation, Andrus was demoted from his position as chief administrative law judge.
At the time of his demotion, Andrus knew an SSA employee from the hearing office was giving investigators information about potential federal offenses.
According to his plea agreement, Andrus met with Conn soon after the WSJ article appeared. The two came up with a plan to discredit the informant.
The plan involved filming the informant while violating a program that allowed employees to work from home, “with the hope that the informant would be terminated as a result,” the DOJ said.
Andrus said he wanted to retaliate against the informant by interfering with his or her job and livelihood. He admitted in Monday’s plea that he knew the SSA employee was telling federal investigators the truth.
In April, the DOJ charged Conn and Daugherty in an 18-count indictment. The charges include conspiracy, fraud, obstruction, false statement, and money laundering. That case involves an alleged scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $600 million in federal disability payments for thousands of claimants.
The Conn and Daugherty indictment included allegations related to the plot against the informant.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He’ll be the keynote speaker at the FCPA Blog NYC Conference 2016.